Who initiates the Courtship...


I have read that the man is supposed to initiate the holy courtship. Does that make it wrong for a woman to propose it? In a world where women have evolved into stronger, more independent figures where they are doing the proposing for marriage sometimes I, even overlooking those worldly values and sticking to the word, can't help but wonder is that truly wrong?





Dear Bianca,

Thank you for your question regarding courtship. Is it wrong for a woman to propose courtship? No, it is not wrong. Some situations might very well warrant that a woman takes the initiative in the relationship. However, I'd like to share with you some things to consider regarding the nature of men and women in relationships.

I believe that while it is not necessary that a man be the one to initiate a courtship relationship, it certainly has it's benefits. My following statements are going to be based on my personal opinions and generalizations. I am by no means able to address any specific man or woman or relationship, not knowing the persons involved. However, I believe there are patterns in human behaviour which allow for certain generalizations to be made.

First, I think that the nature of men is such that they discover their manhood as they "rise to meet challenges". When a woman does the initiating in an intimate relationship with a man, he has no challenge to meet. I truly believe, that psychologically, a man will be much more sensitive to the needs of his girlfriend and, later -- wife, when he has to work to win her over. (Make him sweat it out a bit!) It is good for a man to have to invest something of himself personally in the initiation of the relationship. If it comes to him too easily, he may not appreciate the value of it as much. He may also have a tendency to resent being"pressured" into a romantic relationship which he had not thought through before entering.

Women, on the other hand, are much more relational than man. They analyze more then men. They want to know where things are going -- sometimes before anything is really going anywhere. Which brings me to my next point -- women can be very impatient! Waiting for a man to make up his mind and take the initiative in a courtship often requires a great deal of patience. It requires that she trusts that God will meet the desires of her heart in HIS time, not hers. It means a lot of praying that the man she is interested in will be open and responsive to God's holy will. But it also gives the woman time to discern for herself God's will and to be open to God's plan for her.

I believe that when women push too quickly ahead in wanting a commitment in a relationship from a man, they often undermine the very thing they want. I'll propose three possibilities here:

-1- A man senses he's being pressured and completely backs off! The relationship ends or gets put on hold indefinitely. It's hard to retract a proposal. Once it has gone out, the intentions are made known and both persons involved have to sift through the implications. It can take some doing to get a friendship back on track after that -- hard, but not impossible.

-2- He might go along with the proposal. But, having allowed the woman to take the initiative, he may be happy to allow her to continue to take the lead in the relationship. Later, in marriage, she may be lamenting why her husband never takes the initiative or demonstrates leadership in the home.

-3- He might "wake-up" and realize that he hasn't been paying attention to the relationship, appreciate the initiation from the woman and accept without resentment. He may even, right away or over time, decide to take his role as leader in the relationship -- and spiritual head of the home. And everything can certainly turn out just fine in this scenario!

All this said, I come back to my opening statement. It is NOT wrong for a woman to initiate. But I believe that our culture has confused the role of men and women so much that it leaves many people wondering what is appropriate anymore? Are there any standards left to uphold? And are there any good reasons for those standards -- those sex roles anyway?

Just because society is confused about the roles of men and women, I don't think we as Christians need to be confused. Consider the Holy Family. Although the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary at the Annunciation, once she had humbly accepted to do God's will the angel no longer appeared to her to give direction to their family. All the messages after that came to St. Joseph. He was the head of the Holy Family. He was responsible to lead them all according to God's will. Mary, from that point on, followed her husbands initiative and trusted that God was revealing His will for their lives through the leadership of her husband, Joseph.

I have given this encouragement to other young women. It is a common problem -- waiting for the guy to take the lead! I strongly encourage young women in this situation to pray for St. Joseph's intercession for the man she is waiting for -- that he would discern and follow God's will for their relationship. St. Joseph is the model husband and father. He's an important and powerful saint in heaven!

Pray and trust! Perhaps there is a reason the man is not taking the initiative just yet. Perhaps God's will for your relationship is not courtship. Or maybe it will be, down the line. Perhaps there is someone else that God is leading you to. Trust God to reveal His will in His time and pray for yourself to be open to whatever God's will is for you.

I believe that when a woman prayerfully waits on her man, there will always be grace -- sufficient for the time, and graces -- abundant in the future!

I hope some of these ideas help. I encourage you to read up on what other people are saying about courtship. There are some websites that I have linked up to from my website that would be helpful resources. Also, at the back of my book, ARMS of LOVE, is a resource section with some great references for courtship.

Be assured that you are in my prayers.

In His Most Holy Name,

Carmen Marcoux